The Skies Thunder in Pompeii
On Wednesday May 23rd we took on another long and full day. We awoke early at 5am to make sure we were in Rome at our pick up spot early. When our pick up time had come and gone we were starting to get worried. I was seriously done with all the problems we were encountering and the lack of helpful people. I’ve not had so many issues before on all my other trips combined. Thinking something was wrong with our booking or pick up I ran to the nearest phone booth, where after I figured out how to use it, called the number – it didn’t work. Then I ran across the street to a cafe and asked the server for help, she told me not to dial the first two numbers. How was I to know that?! Back across the street I ran to try again. It worked! I got a hold of the gentleman at the tour company and he said that our pickup was on the way. Ah what a relief. I guess the pickup was on Italian time which seems to be lax at least 5 to 10 minutes. Twenty minutes after our scheduled pick up we were on our way to the bus. Thankfully it wasn’t a large group and most of the people seemed friendly.
The drive to Naples is around 3 hours, with a stop for refreshments and a toilet break at Mount Cassino. Where up on the mountain above our rest stop was an old abbey that was completely destroyed in WWII but has been restored to its original luster. From below it looked like a palace. The scenery along the drive was fantastic; I hadn’t realized there were so many mountains and lush rolling hills, valleys and mountain side villages. I must admit the landscape of south-eastern France into Italy and south of Rome are breathtaking, especially with blue skies.
In Naples we took a walking tour through the historic center of downtown. Before getting off the bus the streets were littered with waste but it was much cleaner in the center. Our guide took us past the large 800 year old Castelnuovo that’s right across from the marina where you can see the island of Capri. Next we passed the royal palace, that’s in two of the main colours you’ll find on buildings in Naples, red and grey. Here you’ll find the oldest shopping center from 1890, Galleria Umberto, with a 64 meter tall glass dome, four massive open entrances facing the four points of the compass and in the center are mosaics from the zodiac and other figures among the marble floor. Still passing the long royal palace, that now holds the theatre, we entered the large Piazza del Plebiscito in front of San Francesco di Paola, a domed church that was similar to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Then we were off to Pompeii. After a tour of a cameo and coral factory we enjoyed a three course meal and we’re wired and ready for the ruins of Pompeii. The city of Pompeii was there 3000 years ago and the people were quite advanced with sliding shop doors, drainage, thermal baths and steam heating, but that all came to a screeching halt in 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted. As our group continued on there was a rumble of thunder in the distance, everyone paused. This came right after our guide told us that Mount Vesuvius usually erupts every 60 years and the last time was in the 1940s – so it’s due. I wonder if some people thought – this wasn’t part of the tour!
The site was massive at 164 square kilometers. Wandering its streets and through its homes for two hours we only saw a fraction. Strangely enough some of the buildings still had some of their original etchings and paint on the walls. The most saddening sight was two of the eight to ten thousand victims encased in ash, now kept in cases. It was a startling scene to see someone in the pose they died in, I could only look briefly. There was an even more spectacular view of Mount Vesuvius at the end of the Pompeii tour. With blue sky behind it and rolling white fluffy clouds covering its peak, it looked amazing.
It was another great day, where we met some new interesting people from South Africa and New Zealand(who carried a stuffed kiwi bird with them to get its photo taken with the great sights), and I can now check two more cities in Italy off my list.